The circular economy is gradually replacing the linear economy – in which we produced things, used them and then threw them away. Resources were turned into waste and waste ended up in landfills. That model is of course no longer sustainable, from either an environmental or social point of view. Humanity can no longer afford to consume resources without thinking about what will happen to the products made and their impact on the planet.
The circular economy offers a new paradigm, which is gaining traction at every level and in every geographical setting, as a realistic solution that combines market competitiveness and environmental sustainability through innovation.
It means rethinking production and consumption models to radically reduce the consumption of virgin raw materials and the production of waste. Using renewable energy sources and materials, extending the useful life of each product, creating sharing platforms, reusing and regenerating, rethinking products as services. These are all elements of the Circular Economy.
To achieve these goals, we need to think in terms of circularity from the outset: starting with product design and going all the way through to consumption and recovery.
Enel’s commitment to the circular economy began some years ago, with examples such as the Futur-e circular economy project for the repurposing of decommissioned power plants. Our model, which is based on the principles of the circular economy, focuses on environmental, social, and economic sustainability in order to identify, together with local stakeholders, potential circular and long-term solutions that can transform these areas into development opportunities for the community. Since then we have introduced the “sustainable construction site” model to all of the new Enel plants currently under construction. This is a global process to help share best practices and reduce social and environmental impact.
In general, we apply a circular approach throughout all stages in the life of our assets, from design to construction, operation, and up to the end of life.
To evaluate the effectiveness of our actions and measure their circularity, we have developed the CirculAbility model and has begun transformative projects in the Company’s various departments. Our Circular Procurement project, for example, is gradually being applied with our suppliers. They are key allies because converting a business to a circular economy model also depends on what happens before production begins, and this transformation can grow exponentially if all the suppliers are actively involved.
In this perspective of circularity by design, the Global Infrastructure and Networks business line is making new smart meters, starting with the regeneration of the previous models that are being replaced, and this has a significant impact on the reduction of Co2 emissions.
Through our Enel X business line, we also offer our services as circularity accelerators to industrial and public administration clients.
We have produced three circular economy publications. “Cities of tomorrow. Circular cities” is a position paper discussing circularity in urban settings. “100 Italian Circular Economy Stories” is based on research carried out in collaboration with the Symbola Foundation on companies of excellence working in the sector in Italy. And the “Circl-e: from decommissioning to regeneration” report addresses old power plants; it was prepared in partnership with ARUP and the Intesa Sanpaolo bank, our partner in the Alliance for the Circular Economy.
Last but not least, we have joined the Circular Economy 100 (CE100) network, which is run by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, a leading opinion-maker in the field.